17 SES 05, Theory & Methodology (Part 1)
Paper Session to be continued in 17 SES 06
Conceptualisations of poverty are never neutral. They are always made in a specific context characterised by an interplay of historical, cultural, economic, demographic and political factors (Alcock, 1993). Therefore it is a political concept, and as such it is highly contested (Lister, 2004). Since the 1990s, however, support occurs in European welfare states for a poverty approach attaching explicit importance to recognizing the voice and life knowledge of people in poverty themselves (Beresford, 2002; Krumer-Nevo, 2005; Lister, 2002). The idea of talking ‘with’ the poor gained prominence instead of talking ‘about’ or ‘to’ people in poverty (Krumer-Nevo, 2005). In that regard, it is important to have “a shared knowledge production and problem definition in which everyone recognises oneself as well receives recognition” (Bouverne-De Bie, Claeys, De Cock, & Vanhee, 2003, p. 10). Read and Wallcraft (1993 as cited in Beresford an Croft, 1995) describe a paradigm shift: from advocacy, which implies that non-poor allies advocate ‘for’ the poor, to self-advocacy, emphasizing the agency of people in poverty to speak for themselves.
In Belgium, social movements emerged in the context of the so-called ‘rediscovery’ of poverty in the 1970s (Townsend, 1970; Valentine, 1968). ATD Fourth World, founded in 1957 in Paris by Father Wrésinski, the Belgian branch of which was founded in 1971 by Father Modave, is internationally the most well-known. BMLIK (Movement of People with Low Income and Children) was founded in 1983, also inspired by ATD but with socialist roots in the city of Ghent. Both organisations became known as ‘self-advocacy organisations of people in poverty’ as they played a prominent role in representing and supporting people in persistent poverty to speak up for themselves in the General Report on Poverty (GRP). The GRP (1994) was commissioned by the Belgian Government (Dehaene, 1992) and was the first policy document encompassing the direct dialogue with people in poverty. As such it became a landmark for future policy making and marks the rhetorical shift towards self-advocacy in Belgium. The Belgian press gave a lot of attention to the report during the following years. However, as testimonials were quoted from the GRP, emphasizing respect and agency, the articles were accompanied with stereotypical images of poverty, like the homeless beggar, who is sitting on the ground, head tucked away. Within this context and as a response to this stereotypical picturing, BMLIK produced the photographic books Courage (BMLIK, 1998) and Courage in colour (BMLIK, 2009). While the GRP marked a possible paradigm shift towards self-advocacy, the books can be considered as both a visual and textual representation of this new paradigm.
Following our critical stance towards the self-advocacy paradigm (Does the GRP really echo the voice of the poor?), the question remains, whether and to what extent the images mark a new way, a shift as it were in the long history of picturing poverty? Can the books and photographs be understood as a way of presenting counter-frames (Van Gorp, 2007) in answer to the (historically-grown) dominant, often pejorative portrayal of the poor? We will investigate not only the frames of poverty, in search of constructed meanings, but also the underlying framing process, and roles herein of respectively people with and without poverty experience. The social movements of people in poverty embody an educational agenda with an emancipatory aim in their struggle to not only ‘advocate for’ but also ‘empower people in poverty to speak for themselves’, and thus becoming self-advocates. The question then arises as of how to understand the relation between people in poverty and their non-poor partners within these so called self-advocacy organisations.
Alcock, P. (1993). Understanding poverty. London: MacMillan Press LTD. Beresford, P. (2002). Participation and social policy: transformation, liberation or regulation? In R. Sykes, C. Bochel & N. E. Ellison (Eds.), Social Policy Review 14: Developments and Debates 2001-2002 (pp. 265-287). Bristol: Policy Press. BMLIK (1998). Courage. Poverty is an abolition of human rights (translated from Dutch) (3rd print ed.). Belgium, Oostakker: BMLIK vzw. BMLIK (2009). Courage in colour (translated from Dutch) (1st print ed.). Belgium, Oostakker: BMLIK vzw. Bouverne-De Bie, M., Claeys, A., De Cock, A., & Vanhee, J. (2003). Armoede en participatie. Ghent: Academia press. Dehaene, J.-L. (1992). Regeringsverklaring uitgesproken voor het parlement op 9 maart 1992 door de Eerste minister, de heer Jean-Luc Dehaene en regeerakkoord. Brussel: INBEL Finnegan, C. (2003). Picturing Poverty. New York: Smithsonian Institution Scholar Press. Grosvenor, I., & Hall, A. (2012). Back to school from a holiday in the slum!: Images, words and inequalities. Critical Social Policy, 32(1), 11-30. GRP (1994). General Report on Poverty. Report commisioned by the Belgian Minister of Social Integration and accomplished bij Foundation Roi Baudouin, in collaboration with ATD Fourth World and Belgian Association of Cities and Municipalities, Welfare Departement. Brussels, Belgium: Foundation Roi Baudouin. Krumer-Nevo, M. (2005). Listening to ‘life knowledge’: a new research direction in poverty studies. International Journal of Social Welfare, 14(2), 99-106. Lister, R. (2002). A Politics of Recognition and Respect: Involving People with Experience of Poverty in Decision making that Affects their Lives. Social Policy and Society, 1(01), 37-46. Lister, R. (2004). Poverty. Cambridge: Polity press. Priem, K., & Thyssen, G. (2013). Puppets on a string in a theatre of display? Interactions of image, text, material, space and motion in The Family of Man (ca. 1950s-1960s). Paedagogica Historica, 49(6), 828-845. Read, J., & Wallcraft, J. (1993). Self-Advocacy. London: COHSE. Tinkler, P. (2013). Using Photographs in Social and Historical Research (J. Seaman Ed.). London: SAGE. Townsend, P. (1970). The concept of poverty. London: Heinemann. Trachtenberg, A. (1990). Reading American photographs : images as history from Matthew Brady to Walker Evans. New York: Hill and Wang. Valentine, C. A. (1968). Culture and poverty: Critique and counter-proposals /Charles A. Valentine: University of Chicago press. Van Gorp, B. (2007). The Constructionist Approach to Framing: Bringing Culture Back In. Journal of Communication, 57(1), 60-78.
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